Most everyone who is familiar enough with Italian culture to want to visit Italy will know a few basic Italian words, like "grazie" for "thank you," for instance.
But what is the proper reply? Why, it is the word "prego," of course! Anyone who visits Italy, even for a short time, will certainly hear the Italian word prego, and in more situations than they might expect at first!
Here is a summary, adapted from our pocket book Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases, of the many ways the word prego is used in Italian, which was shared with our Conversational Italian! Facebook group this month. This is an open group, where English speakers and Italian speakers share about the Italian language and culture. Join us, if you like!
How to use the Italian word "Prego"
Prego is the direct response to grazie and means, "You’re welcome." It is derived from the verb of politeness pregare, which has several meanings.
Pregare can be translated as "to pray," which lends itself to the connotation of asking or requesting something. English phrases like, “I pray of you,” “I beg of you,” or “Pray tell,” carry the same idea, although these are no longer commonly used.
In a similar way, a simple, “Prego…” can also be used, usually with a gesture,* to address someone when on line in a crowded place, as in, “Go ahead of me, I beg you, if you please...”
“Sono pregati di” is a polite expression derived from pregare that may also be heard when someone in charge, such as a flight attendant or tour guide, for instance, is directing a group of people.
Finally, if an Italian waiter comes to your table at a restaurant with a wonderful dish for you to try, he may put it in front of you with a flourish and say, “Prego!” as in “There you go!”
Below is a summary of all the uses of that short, simple Italian word with many uses: "Prego!"
If (you) please…
(When someone in Italy wants you to enter a room, or go ahead of them while waiting in line to enter a restaurant or tourist attraction. Usually accompanied by a hand gesture signaling the direction to go.)
Sono pregati di…
Are requested/asked/begged to…
There you go! Here it is for you!
(When a waiter in Italy brings a special meal to the table for everyone to share, for instance. Usually accompanied by a hand gesture - upward waving of the hands.)
*To really learn Italian, one must also learn the gestures that are a part of the language!
Some of this material was reprinted from Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions), courtesy of Stella Lucente, LLC. Book available on Amazon.com and download to electronic devices on www.LearnTravelItalian.com.
Contact Corrine at info@StellaLucente.com for special book offers with the promo code CIAP.
Ciao a tutti! Sono Kathryn Occhipinti and I invite you to learn Italian as I did - with my Conversational Italian for Travelers books - designed with the Italian-American in mind! I will be posting excerpts from the blog that I created for newcomers to the Italian language, which is called Conversational Italian! I hope you enjoy my insights to learning Italian. Please feel free to leave comments. I'd love to hear from you! Also, scroll to the end of each post for a special offer for CIAP members. Ci restiamo in contatto!